More investment needed to reduce poverty and counteract climate change

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has today announced at the Paris climate talks that Australia will provide $1 billion in funding to its Pacific neighbours over the next five years to help them deal with the impact of global warming.

ChildFund Australia welcomes this commitment to supporting developing countries in our region. However, we are disappointed that this announcement refers to existing funding, rather than a new program of investment.

Australia currently contributes around $200 million annually to climate change programs in the Asia-Pacific through its overseas development assistance program, and there are no plans for additional funds to be allocated.

Nigel Spence, CEO of ChildFund Australia, said: “Given that our aid budget has already been slashed by over $11 billion in the last three years, we are extremely concerned about the Government’s ability to deliver effective, transformative programs, which both reduce poverty and counteract climate change.”

Pacific nations currently produce some of the lowest levels of carbon pollution globally, yet are the most vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change. Not only must countries in this region prepare for the impact of rising sea levels, but many are already dealing with the devastation caused by extreme weather events, including droughts and cyclones.

ChildFund believes it is only right that Australia, which has actually increased its carbon emissions in the past 12 months, should assist its nearest neighbours with programs to mitigate or prevent the worst outcomes of global warming. This is vital if we are to prevent communities from back-sliding into poverty, or witness a worsening of living standards in already vulnerable communities.

ChildFund also supports recommendations by the Australian Council for International Development for the Government to establish far more ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with a clear commitment to achieving zero levels well before the mid-century.

Mr Spence added: “It is reassuring to see the new Prime Minister recognise climate change as an urgent and important issue; we know the devastating impact it can have on children and families already living in poverty.

“But right now Australia is on track to having the lowest level of aid investment ever in its history. If the Government is serious about providing support to its nearest neighbours, we need more investment in our region, not just a reallocation of funds from one spreadsheet to another.”

Sydney, Australia, 20 November 2015: Drugs, alcohol and the internet have been named by Australian children as the top risk factors leading to child abuse, according to a new global survey of almost 6,000 children by international aid group ChildFund Alliance.

The sixth annual Small Voices, Big Dreams Survey, one of the largest global polls of children’s views, found that 70 per cent of Australian children blamed drugs or alcohol as a cause of adult mistreatment of children, in contrast to just 4 per cent of children globally.

In comparison, almost half of children (47%) from countries in Asia say that adults mistreat children because ‘it is the child’s fault’, while in Africa almost one in four (23%) children say adults mistreat children because ‘the family needs the money children can earn’.

ChildFund Australia CEO Nigel Spence said: “This finding from Australia echoes the 2013 survey which found that almost half (45%) of Australian children surveyed believe that alcohol is the main cause of violence in Australia.

“We know that alcohol-fuelled violence is commonly reported in the news and may also be experienced in the home. This result is a stark reminder that Australian children comprehend how alcohol and drugs can lead to abuse, and demonstrates their high degree of concern.”

Almost half of children in Australia (45%), and in all the developed countries surveyed (43%), also said that adults mistreat children because they were victims of abuse themselves. This compares with only one in four children in developing countries (26%).

Further, the survey found an overwhelming majority (85%) of Australian children said children are at risk of mistreatment and abuse online; three times higher than the global response of 28 per cent.

When asked where children may be at risk from harm, 42 per cent of children globally named home and school, with more than half of the Australian children surveyed (55%) particularly concerned about the risks of abuse children face at school.

Children in developing countries were found to be more likely to identify the home as a place of risk (46%), compared to 28 per cent of children living in developed countries.

If given the chance to be leader of their country, children globally (42%) are united in their desire to create more rules and laws to protect children, and to punish those who abuse them. When asked about the most important thing adults can do to keep children safer from mistreatment, almost one in three Australian respondents (31%) said adults should listen to what children have to say.

Mr Spence said: “The Small Voices, Big Dreams survey findings come just months after the United Nations formally launched the Sustainable Development Goals, which commit world leaders to achieving child protection targets for the first time. We must listen and respond to children’s concerns in order to provide the most effective response.

“Our survey shows there’s much to be done to ensure every child in Australia and around the world feels safe, and has the best chance of a childhood free from violence and exploitation.”

About the Small Voices, Big Dreams Survey
Small Voices, Big Dreams is one of the world’s largest global polls of children’s views and opinions. In 2015, 5,805 children aged 10-12 years from 44 countries took part in the survey. This group included children from both developed and developing countries in Africa, the Americas, Asia-Pacific and Europe, with 231 children from Australia taking part. The Small Voices, Big Dreams survey project was created six years ago in order to give children the opportunity to share their thoughts and opinions on issues of importance to them. While the survey results highlight the differences in living standards between children in developed and developing countries, they also demonstrate the many commonalities, with the results showing that children globally often share similar hopes, dreams and aspirations.

Download the full report here.